The pitch for White Collar Brawler — that it’s some sort of real-life Fight Club — is one of the rare pitches that does, almost, match with the subject matter. The nonfiction tale of two friends who quit their office jobs to devote themselves to boxing isn’t nearly as anti-establishment as David Fincher’s seminal film, however, as their new devotion to training isn’t a gateway to further mayhem. It’s their escape, pure and simple.
The series, which debuted on Tuesday, was created by, and features, Kai Hasson and Nate Houghteling, with Jason Cohn directing and production company Portal A putting everything together. The first episode sets up the premise without giving us a lot of time to get to know Hasson and Houghteling, as so much of the episode is devoted to set-up. But the pair are likable and fun on camera, and seem to genuinely take this commitment seriously. It’s something their trainer Angelo Merino recognizes immediately. Merino is unfortunately stiff and uncomfortable in interview segments, but during training sessions, he’s tough and wise.
To emphasize the reality of the show, which promises a quick turnaround of episodes (Episode One was filmed just last week), the accompanying site includes a public Google calendar listing Hasson and Houghteling’s training schedule, ostensibly meaning that if you live in the San Francisco area, you could join up with the guys for a 7:00 a.m. beach run or weights session.
The show is being distributed through Next New Networks’ Creators Program; according to Zach Blume, Portal A’s director of business development and marketing, NNN execs Kathleen Grace and Ben Relles were already Portal A fans before the company began working on Brawler, and followed the show’s development accordingly.
In a slight departure from NNN’s other Next New Creators shows, Brawler uses the Blip.tv player on its site as opposed to YouTube, which is what NNC series typically use. Blume said via email that “In our negotiations with both Blip and NNN, it was made clear to us by both Steve [Woolf, of Blip.tv] and Kathleen that the two could work together harmoniously and that there was no conflict in using Blip on our site while also putting the video on YouTube for Next New’s promotion.” The first episode of White Collar Brawler has so far received only 144 views on YouTube.
Brawler is best described as non-fiction because of how it blends genres within that realm. The filmmaking style is so pretty it’s almost unnecessary, with lush cinematography that captures the gray San Francisco climate, and uses that color palette to give context to the corporate life being escaped. The feel in general proves very documentary-like in nature. However, the twist at the end of Episode One, in which Merino reveals that Hasson and Houghteling will have to fight each other eventually, reveals how much the show’s structure owes to reality TV.
How do Hasson and Houghteling not know about that twist, despite the fact that they’re credited as the creators, writers and producers of the series? According to Blume, the initial idea that the two fight each other came from Merino, who suggested it to the director; Hasson and Houghteling were asked to approve the decision after the fact. Hasson and Houghteling had no idea during the filming of the first episode that they’d eventually be fighting each other; in Episode Two, which comes out Friday morning, they’ll deal with the revelation and how it changes the dynamic of their training. Now it’s a competition; soon, there will be a showdown.
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